St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.
It's mildly surprising that former Bucs and Colts coach Tony Dungy, left, is as good on television as he has been. Everyone knows that Dungy is great guy and intelligent about a lot more subjects than just football. But you wouldn't think his soft-spoken personality would translate well to television. Jon Gruden? Sure, you can see that. Same with John Madden and Charles Barkley. They're animated and outspoken. Yet Dungy's cerebral approach and willingness to be frank with his comments has made him an excellent addition to NBC's Sunday Night Football studio team.
It also has kept Dungy busy between all of his ministry and charitable work.
"I haven't been fishing once since I retired, and that's not good," Dungy joked Friday night in Sarasota at the Dick Vitale Gala for cancer research.
Don't expect Dungy to leave broadcasting and return to coaching anytime soon.
"I don't have the itch," Dungy said about coaching. "I don't miss the actual day-to-day schedule, but I miss the guys. You can't be around 58, 59 guys and 20 coaches and then all of sudden go away and not miss them. … But as far as the actual schedule and being out there on Sunday, I don't miss it."
Broadcasting is all the football Dungy needs right now.
"The broadcasting has helped (replace coaching) because it's very similar,'' Dungy said. "You got a team there. Not only do you have the guys out in front of the camera, but you got a whole big team of researchers and technicians and camera guys and producers. And you feel like you're trying to get something done on Sunday, as well. You want to give the fans a good product, and then you put that down and come back and go at it again the next week. So it's been fun. It's given me a way to stay involved in the game."
Biggest time change
Fox tried something different Saturday, moving its baseball Game of the Week into prime time with three regional games. We got Yankees-Mets in Tampa Bay. Is this the first step to Fox making the weekly game a night game?
"Right now, I'd term this a well-thought-out experiment," Fox Sports president Ed Goren told the Boston Globe. "Whether we expand the prime-time baseball schedule, however down the road that may be, depends on a number of variables. We are conscious of the needs and feelings of the teams, of course. Those who run prime time at Fox will naturally have significant input. And we'll consider the ratings and other data as we continue to think about where to go with this."
Televising in prime time once in a while is fine, but not all the time. Game of the Week belongs on Saturday afternoons, if for no other reasons than tradition and the fact that ESPN already provides a slew of prime-time games.
Sun Sports' Brian Anderson, below, just keeps getting better as the Rays' television analyst. We already can see the camaraderie between him and announcer Dewayne Staats, as well as his sense of humor. On Sunday, Anderson brought strong analysis, dissecting why Rays pitcher David Price was struggling. Another example of an analyst teaching us something we didn't know. What more can you ask for?
It will be a surprise if the Magic wins tonight and extends its NBA Eastern Conference final to a fifth game. What's disappointing for Orlando fans is just how ineffective center Dwight Howard has been, and now you have to question if he really is an impact player. "Dwight Howard is a one-dimensional player — at that," Detroit Free Press columnist Mitch Albom said on ESPN's Sports Reporters. "And if he doesn't change that, he'll be more known for his shoulders in his NBA career. … That was a pathetic performance by Orlando (on Saturday). Come on, you're supposed to be desperate, you're supposed to fight with everything you have and you're down by 30 points before anyone can blink?'' Speaking of the Magic, I like ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, but doesn't it seem like he has been extra hard on the Magic players and not hard enough on Orlando's coach, Stan Van Gundy, who happens to be his brother?
Sports on television is never better than when we, the viewers, learn something that we didn't know or discover the reason something happened the way it did. That's why NBC and hockey analyst Ed Olczyk get major kudos for immediately discovering what happened Saturday during a key goal in the Canadiens-Flyers NHL Eastern Conference final game. It looked like Philadelphia's Claude Giroux simply blew around Montreal's Josh Gorges for the first goal of the game. While Giroux was still celebrating, NBC cameras and Olczyk honed in on a broken ankle-guard strap that kept Gorges from being able to turn without falling. That's why he couldn't keep up with Giroux, and that's good stuff.
Yankees announcer Michael Kay, it appears, has some issues with the Rays and manager Joe Maddon, left. For starters, Kay and broadcast partner Ken Singleton criticized Tampa Bay's Jason Bartlett for trying to bunt Wednesday with the Rays up 7-2 with no outs and a man on second in the eighth inning. A five-run lead with the powerful Yankees lineup still having two innings to bat doesn't seem big enough to stop playing. And, as it turned out, the Rays had to hold on for a 10-6 victory after the Yankees mounted a rally in the ninth. Then on Thursday, Kay seemed to be criticizing all of Maddon's lineup decisions and moves by saying, "It's like he wants to be the smartest guy in the room."
Three things that popped into my head
1. Could the conference finals in both the NHL and NBA be any less competitive and any more boring?
2. Poor Canada. The way the Flyers-Canadiens series is going, it appears as if the Stanley Cup drought for Canadian teams is going to reach 17 years. The 1993 Montreal Canadiens are the last team from Canada to win the Cup.
3. Yet another reason why hockey players are the baddest dudes on the planet: Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith gave a lengthy postgame interview on the ice despite having seven teeth knocked out during the game after taking a puck to the mouth. Are you kidding me?
The Dick Vitale Gala on Friday night was something much more than your standard rubber-chicken dinner with a couple of pats-on-the-back salutes. Besides raising more than $1 million for cancer research, the night was full of inspirational and emotional speeches. There wasn't a dry eye in the house when Vitale gave his closing speech, or when cancer survivor Mark Herzlich, a linebacker from Boston College, and Jake Olson, a 13-year-old USC football fan who has lost both eyes to cancer, shared their stories. Olson, who loves everything Trojans and dislikes the rival UCLA Bruins, had the line of the night: "Besides (UCLA basketball coach Ben Howland), if there are any UCLA people out there, can you raise your hand? Good, I don't see any."